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Seral Sofi

Managing Partner, Ideas Bureau


Seral Sofi is a recruitment veteran with over 20 years of knowhow in executive search and the Saudi employment market. She has formed companies and served in a range of senior positions in the sector, and is today Managing Partner at Ideas Bureau and a board member of Wisdom Management Consulting, the first in chapter female member of the Entrepreneurs Organization.

"Exponential and agile growth is what’s needed today."
With the growing interest in and importance of talent acquisition and retention in Saudi Arabia, Ideas Bureau has positioned itself as the expert in human capacity building for the public and private sectors.
Could you elaborate on the operations of Ideas Bureau and the services it provides?

Ideas Bureau (Rawad Al-Afkar) came about in 2007 once I exited a partnership with ECSA—the first ever female-focused recruitment firm in KSA. It was a concept somewhat ahead of its time, paving the way for a generalist executive search and recruitment advisory firm when there was little, if any, such industry presence in the market. Essentially, we are strategic hiring solutions/ advisory consultants that support both public and private sector entities in human capacity building.

Vision 2030 includes both Saudization and internationalization of the Kingdom’s economy. What are the sought-after capabilities, and what is the market seeking from a strategic standpoint?

Exponential and agile growth is what’s needed today. The drive to take the Kingdom to its highest potential in response to the national Vision’s objectives require turbo-charged work behavior and lightning speed adoption. The success will rely on efficient digital evolution but will require the smartest brain power to deliver. The market will continue to soak up the brightest of international talents, and this will be additionally enabled by the upcoming global economic slump that will saturate the employment market with talent. Meanwhile, it will be essential to ensure that local talents are adequately developed given the steep learning curve ahead by leveraging expert SME capabilities.

What is the public-private sector balance in your portfolio, and do the talent requirements differ between the two?

There is little difference between the two sectors today. There are many sets of targets to accomplish within a short time; therefore, the reliance on tenured, low-paid, civil servants is no longer considered. In early 2017, we witnessed a mass exodus from the private to the public sector where there was almost a “call to proudly serve your nation.” This trend will continue until the pendulum starts to shift back to further enable the private sector. Investor confidence is at an all-time high, and that sentiment then gets mirrored in private-sector employability. Within the coming two years, we will experience healthy competition on both sides attract national talent to produce astounding results.

What is the balance between recruiting locally vs. internationally?

Our primary focus has been, and will always be, to grow local talent. While we are very confident in attracting SMEs from across the globe, we will always do so such that it is done in conjunction with national talent development pathways. The conversations I am really excited to start engaging in are the outward mobilization and demand for local talent to the international communities which will be taking place sooner than we expect. The abilities and peak of growth we have witnessed within a remarkably short time will lay the foundation for Saudi talent to be in high demand in globally developed markets based on the unique expertise developments taking place at present.

How has the cultural and economic shift in the Kingdom affected the way you work with partners and clients locally?

Our industry has not evolved much in over 100 years. Even with the advent of AI and testing tools, no one has yet proven to hire talent without human intervention, such as interviewing for a position. With that said, adopting tools will enable early movers to drive higher efficiencies, capture more compelling data, improve objectivity, and speed up the generally slow-moving process. What I love about the shift in experience since COVID-19 is the ability to engage virtually and move the markers that way. What could have taken months in the past to get two people in a room together, and the exorbitant costs of flying people around the world, now happens at the click of a button. It gives people significantly more choice and range of access whereby agents of change need to act quickly and with accuracy so as to not lose out in the talent war in this upward moving market.



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